January 25, 2010

A Coke and Smile

Well. I am three weeks into my own personal challenge of living like Jesus. I can't say that I've done that well. I'm trying to do things like read the gospels every week, not drink soda, eat better, and so on. I read to Matthew 17 the first week. The second week I made it to Mark 2, though that was only because I had a long trip one day and I listened to all of Matthew on the drive. Last week I didn't even hit the gospels.

I ate better for the first week. Steph and I watched how much we ate and we tried not to eat out all that often (which is really one of our bad habits). Since then, my eating has been very similar to before. I've probably not had seconds as much. But, that is probably the only bright spot in the last few weeks in regards to eating.

The one and only thing I have been able to keep up with is not drinking soda. Now, if you know me, the thing I like most besides coffee is a good soda. My fridge in the office used to be stocked with Diet Coke or on occasion some Ale 8 or Livewire. Since the beginning of January, the only thing in my fridge is coffee creamer and yogurt. Dismal, I know.

The first week of this thing, I decided to drink more water. And, I actually did. I even think the first two days I drank 64 ounces of water throughout the day. I didn't really notice much difference, other than more need to use the restroom. I didn't feel any better or worse, not that I was expecting a huge change in the way I feel.

Then, we started going out to eat more. I would get lemonade or iced tea in those instances, if I didn't have water. I learned two things. One, lemonade is a decent replacement for soda. Two, iced tea is a gamble. Sometimes its good. Sometimes its just okay. Sometimes it tastes like its a week old. That's not good. Even with these challenges, not having soda has not been as difficult as I expected it to be.

That's not to say, however, that I've not been tempted. A recent trip to B-Dubs was painful. Lemonade, water, or iced tea just doesn't go with hot barbeque and Caribbian Jerk wings. Last week at the office, Caleb (Frank's son) gave me a can of Throwback Mt Dew. It is probably in the top three of my favorite sodas. I kindly took the can and gave it away. On, Saturday, the Lowman family had a nice, hot pepperoni and extra cheese pizza from Pizza Hut. A Coke would have tasted incredible with it. Heck, even a Pepsi would have tasted okay. But alas, I had Gatorade. It was adequate and the pizza tasted great. But it just wasn't right.

The biggest temptation has been on my unfortunate, yet frequent trips to Menards and Lowes. For the last year and a half I have been remodeling our house. It always seems that every time I go to do something I need some extra supply that I don't have. So, naturally, it means a trip to the home store. This requires a travel beverage. One of these delectables can be acquired from the Speedway soda fountain in 32 and 44 ounce varieties or purchased in lovely plastic bottles in the checkout line at the home store. If Hannah was with me, it was always Speedway since the girl has grown an early appreciation for a frozen soda, aka the slurpee.

Last night was extra bad. I ran into some drywall issues and needed a new piece for around a new door in the family room, which itself was an issue. By the time I admitted that I needed to change out some drywall, my frustration level was pretty high. As I got in the truck to run to the home store yet again, I could feel an overwhelming pull in my soul for a soda. It would have calmed me down. It would have soothed my frustration and made the 10 minute drive to Lowes more tolerable. I could have made it happen too. I actually have cash in my wallet for some reason--something I try not to do. I could have easily slipped into Speedway or the McDonalds drive thru for a frosty, ice cold Coke, with lots of ice and a nice straw to slurp it up with. Seeing that its been three weeks since I've had one of those, I certainly would have disposed of it quickly enough to throw away the cup when I arrived at Lowes. No one would know except me. It could be my little secret. . .

How is it that something so simple, like a beverage, can control my mind the way that it does, even though I've been away from it for three weeks? Why does it feel like my bones are longing for soda? Is it a deep down emotional need? Or, is it because of the years and years of hearing and seeking "coke and a smile" commercials? Or, the even greater question. . . how am I going to make it a whole year? I'm already having conversations in my head and with my wife like, "Root Beer isn't soda, it's root beer, right?" "Or, a slurpee isn't soda, especially the flavored ones like the orange cream that Speedway used to have, right?"

An orange cream slurpee from Speedway would be heavenly right now--a big 44 ounce one in a Styrofoam cup with two straws so I could get more of it into my system with each slurp. . .

Last night I drove to Lowes, got what I needed, and returned home thirsty. It was a good feeling to not give in. Its really the only thing I've had discipline with in this Jesus journey that I'm trying to take this year. My prayer is that overcoming the need for a stupid drink will help to grow my discipline and actually make it through the gospels in a week or that I might actually exercise. We'll see how this week goes.

So, when you have a Coke and a smile this week, think of me and pray for my soul.

January 18, 2010

Turning 6

Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday Stephanie and I brought Hannah home from the hospital. I distinctly remember that night. It was a cold night with temperatures in the single digits. The nurse at the hospital helped us bundle Hannah extra well in her car seat. Steph sat in the back seat to make sure everything was ok on the way home. When we arrived home, we carried Hannah in and put her in the middle of the floor. I remember standing behind Steph as she sat on the floor in front of Hannah, who was still in her car seat. We had a rush of many emotions right then. Amazement, fear, hope, and hopelessness all came at once. It was rather overwhelming. Luckily, Steph's parents pulled in the drive about two seconds later. I escaped to my office at the church for awhile to gather myself, journal, and so on.

From then on, life has been different. It took us time to adjust. We had to learn new routines. We had to learn how to interpret the signals she was giving--whether she was hungry, smelly, gassy (she is my child), and so on. We learned. We failed some. We learned some more. Then, when we thought we had a good portion of it figured out, she started crawling. Which, then called for more learning and baby-proofing. We quickly realized that even though we were the parents, we were going to be shaped with the new life that Hannah was, just as much as she would be shaped by us.

Today my little precious girl turned six. As I sit here and try to think of all the things we've done together and all the firsts she has had over the last six years, I struggle to grasp how so much time has passed so quickly. It seems like yesterday she was calling a spoon a samoo. Now she pronounces spoon correctly, lacing it with an annoyed tone when you say samoo. Back then she would take naps and cuddle for hours. Now, the child is in constant motion taking in all that is around her with every bit of energy she has.

Lord, thank you for the last six years of life that Steph and I have had with Hannah Grace. We have enjoyed every moment of it. I look forward to the many more years you will hopefully give us. May you continue to teach me about me and, more importantly, about how much you love us as your little children. May I be able to share that love with my little girl.

January 16, 2010


For all 4 or 5 of you that read this page. South Lansing Christian Church is physically getting involved in helping with what has happened in Haiti. You can find out all the info here. If you can help, we would greatly appreciate it. I think it would be an amazing thing if we could fill a shipping container in a day or two and need to get another one. What a testament of our faith and hope that would be!

I spent a couple weeks in Haiti back in 2003. It was an amazing experience. The people there live on very little. They make do with what they have. One of our responsibilities while we were there was helping to dig a foundation for a new building. Now, one would think, that could be fun, especially if you get to run the backhoe. Unfortunately, there were no mechanical or powered machines involved. Just men and women using picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The shaping thing for me during that project was the fact that us blancs (white people) could only work 1/2 hour shifts or more at a time before the heat and the physical labor made us stop and take a break. All the while, the Haitian men who we were working beside kept swinging, digging, and moving. Even more, they sang songs, smiled, and enjoyed the work because they were doing something good--and they had work to do.

I cannot even begin to imagine what the Haitian people are going through right now. Selfishly, I don't ever want to experience it. As I looked at the pictures on Boston Globe's Big Picture my heart grows heavy my mind begins to wonder how I would respond if something like that happened here and I were to lose Stephanie or Hannah. And then I get disgusted at myself because here I sit, in a Panera Bread drinking coffee worrying about how I would feel if I ever had to feel this loss, rather than praying and hurting for the hundreds of thousands of people who were specifically affected by the earthquake.

Lord, help me to lose myself so that you can be glorified through my actions. Help my thoughts, prayers, and actions be directed to helping others experience, understand, and know what the Kingdom of God feels like. May we as a church be your body physically in the next week. Help us to pray, give, pack, and be a blessing.

January 6, 2010

Quotes From Dobson. . . .

Ok. I mentioned these quotes in my last post. I'm finally getting back to Dobson's book to look for them. (plus, I needed a post since Frankly has 3 already - not that blogging is a contest).

The first quote of Dobson's book that challenges me comes from a rabbi that one of his sons studied with and is on the first page. "If you're a Christian and aren't reading through the Gospels every week, then you're not a very good Christian. How can you claim to take Jesus' teachings seriously when you spend so little time actually reading them?" The rabbi hit a nerve with Dobson. It does with me too. I've tried many times to read through the Bible every year. I get a good start every January, but then "get too busy". This year is going to be different. I'm going to do everything I can to listen or read through the gospels every week. I'm already failing miserably this week, but there are still a few days left. This may mutate into a gospel a week/all the gospels in a month goal for me.

The second quote has still not been found. I've been through almost 80 pages and not found it. Its rather frustrating. But, alas. I guess I need to read through the book again. I'm writing down some of the prayers that Dobson uses throughout his year long journey. Two that are really grabbing me right now are the Orthodox Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It is repeated for each knot in an Orthodox Prayer Rope, which has 33, 50, or 100 knots in it, depending on which length rope you have. It really helps me control my mind and focus back towards God, especially when my mind decides to go the opposite way.

Another resource Dobson came across in his journey is the Amidah--a set of blessings that are a part of the Jewish prayer life. I need to do more reading on how they are used individually and communally in the life of Israel. But, from my first look at the blessings, they seem like they will be helpful to pray through. (if you want more info, or to see them, you can go here)

I guess that is all for now. Maybe the next time I blog I'll have the other quote and a specific list of what I'm actually doing this year as I try to live more like Jesus.